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Juneteenth

3.58 of 5 stars 3.58  ·  rating details  ·  779 ratings  ·  73 reviews
NATIONAL BESTSELLER

"[A]n extraordinary book, a work of staggering virtuosity. With its publication, a giant world of literature has just grown twice as tall."--Newsday

From Ralph Ellison--author of the classic novel of African-American experience, Invisible Man--the long-awaited second novel. Here is the master of American vernacular--the rhythms of jazz and gospel and ordi
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Published (first published May 29th 1999)
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(showing 1-30 of 1,971)
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MJ Nicholls
My rule with unfinished or abandoned novels is to leave them festering lonesome on shelves as embarrassing reminders of a writer’s all-too-human faffiness—Gogol’s Dead Souls II serving as the ur-example of what happens when an author fails to follow up a masterpiece and loses his sanity and reputation in the process. Whether Ellison lost his sanity trying to complete his Untitled Second Novel is unclear—forty years trying to follow up one of the Great American Novels Invisible Man suggests a lac ...more
Rachel
Wow.

One reading while breastfeeding is not going to cut it with this book. Talk about layers.

I feel the need to read lots of scholarship about this book, but not right now.

Does it bother you when you read a book that describes someone as a "great" something but gives no evidence of their being "great"? Well, this book delivers in that department. It's about a preacher and a politician and boy is it packed with prime examples of preaching and politicking (especially the former).

I wonder what the
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Ben
I don't listen to country music so forgive my inability to properly reference this song; a song I abhor. I have seen the music video though. The guitar-slinging singer hops out of his Chevy pickup wearing a baseball cap and mechanics shirt singing about all the characteristics of a "real" American. As I watched this video, as a man whose head remains too large for donning baseball caps and drives a small sedan, I felt entirely un-American. And enraged. His depiction undoubtedly represents some A ...more
Djrmel
How do you judge a book that was unfinished at the time it was taken over by the editor? A book that was 40 years in the making, likely to have been published as three books if the author had finished it before he passed away? Do you judge it as a work in progress, a sketch book piece from the creaters of one of Western Literatures masterpieces? After all, Elisson never handed this book to his publisher and said "It is done". It seems unfair to judge it as a finished work bearing Ellison's name, ...more
kerry
Adore this book. I found that, despite its strange construction as a book, Juneteenth stands on its own as a masterpiece of American lit... and knowing Ellison's history and the toil that went into its writing only adds to the book's classicness.

Juneteenth is one small excerpt of Ellison's 2000+ manuscript after the Invisible Man. Ellison spent years on the follow-up story, enduring a '66 fire that burned the initial manuscript, and tearing through writing and re-writing Juneteenth for the rest
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Jesus
Jun 19, 2008 Jesus rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: freeing your mind & your body
I was surprised to find that slavery still existed in America even after the death of so many of our young countrymen in a divisive though ultimately decisive war. The title of this work derives from the day in the middle of June a town in the state of Texas finally complied with what had become federal law & formally ended the practice of slavery. The too-long-delayed celebration of newly-freed individuals becomes a backdrop for understanding contemporary politics.

The other reviewers sugges
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Jennifer W
Too twisty and stream of consciousness for me. very few real plot points, hard to follow at times. I know this was an editor's work of unfinished notes and whatnot, and maybe I would have liked the whole more, but as it stands, I wasn't that impressed.
Jozef Syndicate
Yes, THE Ralph Ellison has a novel on freedom, published posthumously in 1999. A fascinating tale of the attempted assassination of Senator Bliss Sunraider who passes for white and reeks havoc on the Black constituents who reared him as a young man. On his death bed, he calls for the man who loved him most, his adopted father and biological uncle the Rev. AZ Hickman, an old Black preacher. Hidden within the story line is the celebration that freedom comes only when Whites recognize that their fr ...more
James Klagge
This book was excerpted from a massive novel project that remained unfinished at the author's death. So it is unclear whether the flaws derive from the project itself or from its unfinished state. A much larger edition of the project was recently published as "Three Days Before the Shooting". Perhaps the larger edition answers the many unanswered questions that hang mysteriously in "Juneteenth". I don't know. I read this in the middle of June because that is when Juneteenth falls. There is a mar ...more
Alain
Mar 25, 2009 Alain rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: dedicated
Juneteenth by Ralph Ellison was a book with great voice and a good example of good writing. I've not read the Invisible Man so I cannot judge on his previous work. After reading this book though I can say that the book was not that hard to understand as far as reading but the story itself/the set up was very confusing at times. The book does say its an edited compilation of Ellision work and it does show at parts sometimes to much. At times to story sort of just skip and goes somewhere else. Thi ...more
Noelle M
After I closed the book it took me time to digest the story. The story is about a racially prejudiced white U.S. senator who was abandoned at his illegitimate birth, and reared by a black minister named Alonzo Hickman whose pulpit style was religion as spectacle--in which he schooled the boy. OR the story may be about a black minister named Alonzo Hickman who reared an abandoned white waif who turned into a political con able to backstab anyone in his climb to the top. The tale alternates points ...more
Pat
Juneteenth is Ralph Ellison's posthumous follow-up to Invisible Man. It's about a senator, Bliss, who is shot on the senate floor, and the African-American man, Hickman, who raised him. It's also about identity and how the way we identify ourselves affects our actions and how we treat others. Despite having been raised by African-Americans, Bliss grows up to become a racist, white senator. Once he decides to be white, this influences the future actions of his life, which leads to the assassinati ...more
Susan Emmet
Juneteenth..."the celebration of a gaudy illusion," regarding Emancipation. And Lord knows Ellison's forty-year effort to complete this novel needed adept assistance from a good editor, John F. Callahan, Ellison's literary executor. But it's no "gaudy illusion."
It's a wonderful, entrapping book, full of sermons and dreams and music and history and folktale and layers of dialog and plot and theme. Just an amazing work pared down from 2000 pages of text Ellison left, along with boxes of notes.
By
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Me
Seriously intended to fall in love with this book beyond personal facades of intellectual bouts, it fell down pretty damn hard.

1. I adore African American History- I rather enjoy the pungent negativity surrounding it, clearly masking glorious beauty, and resilience levels so high in terms of all aspects.

2. My ideas of emancipation and American History isn't so whole hearted.

3. For someone who doesn't give a slight kilowatt too tension or any level of connection and stimulation of the mind, this
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Cheryl Klein
Note to self: Don't ever check out audio books from the library that were published more than two years ago. They'll be so scratched up that you only hear about seventy percent of the text. The weird thing about this particular book--which I suspect might be a very good book--is that no matter how much I missed, the story still seemed to be in the same place when I picked up again, like a soap opera.

The story itself--of a racist white senator of mysterious origins, raised by a black preacher to
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Jean Mckie-Sutton
It is well known that Faulkner had a profound influence on Ellison's work. Since I was so enamored of Faulkner's style, I expected Juneteenth to foster the same admiration. I dived in, engaged from the start with the troubled and multifaceted Sunraider, and Hickman who was deemed a saint on one hand, and an exploiter on the other. But by the time I got to the last chapter, I nearly gave up. Sunraider's hallucinatory stream of memories and visions go on for the entire chapter. It was difficult to ...more
Ryan
It is unfortunate that Ellison was unable to complete this novel. Invisible Man remains my favorite novel of all time because of the ease with which Ellison navigates such tricky and complex topics. Here, thematically there is much of the same: race, identity, religion, and politics, but Ellison approaches these subjects in a much different way. This is largely third-person (although the novel is constantly shifting) and because of that there is a new distance here. Also, there is no cohesion to ...more
Wizzard
I love Ralph Ellison and his writing is deep, amazing, and profound. However he died before he could put the book together. So some professor put it together, which must have been a hell of an effort. But alas, Professor is no Ellison and the book is put together in a confusing way. It sets up various scenes but never seems to "go" anywhere. We'll never know what Ellison would have done with the material, where he would have taken the story. Again, there is a lot here to mine. I wish that Profes ...more
Scott
At times, it is a little more stream of conscious than my tastes, but still a very powerful, and memorable book. The premise is that this older, white U.S. Senator, known for his race-baiting rhetoric, is shot while delivering a speech in Washington D.C. But on his deathbed, he calls for an old, Black minister. The story then about their reflections of their history together and how they got to where they are. Juneteenth is the celebration of the Emancipation Proclamation. Since communication wa ...more
Dave
Sure, it's not a novel in the conventional sense. But Callahan did a pretty good job in morphing the chaos that lay in the wake of Ellison's death into a nugget of powerful storytelling that offers another glimpse into Ellison's world-view/cosmos beyond Invisible Man. Highlights include the "fire and wood" sermon and Ellison's treatment of Brer Rabbit; something he referenced in his essays and letters. One gains a better understanding of the breadth that Ellison attempted to encompass, ultimatel ...more
Izetta Autumn
Ellison died before he completed this novel about a child preacher who later passes for white and becomes a segregationist politician. On his death bed, said politician finds that religion and his identity cannot be held at bay - and neither can the Black community, which though he has forsaken them, have not abandoned him.

This is interesting. To me the book was a departure from Ellison's other work and had notes of Baldwin and Gaines (especially Gaines' Lesson Before Dying). It was nice to read
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Michelle
difficult to get into the rhythm at first, but a very powerful and thought provoking work. really helps to read the forward as well as the author's notes at the end.
Rachael
Ugggg.

I slogged through and made it. And I view that as quite the accomplishment.

Juneteenth is a dialgoue/walk down memory lane/telepathic conversation between a dying racist senator and the black reverend who raised him.

I know that the book is unfinished, but oh my god was it confusing. Subjects and setting change mid-sentence. Characters suddenly appear that we are clearly supposed to be well acquainted with. And towards the end (around page 280 something) was a long chapter in which I neve
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Linda
Ralph Ellison is a master of verse. His language is poetic and the subject matter important for us all, especially those of us with white privilege. His work is very deep yet easy to understand...Juneteenth is a masterpiece. Just like his other work, Invisible Man. I grew up with an English literature teacher mom. She insisted upon language and content being of the highest quality. I have so much trouble reading bad writing or writing that just doesn't deepen me. Ralph Ellison worked for 50 year ...more
S.
Maybe at some point I will accept that nothing will be "Invisible Man." Ever. It's not that Juneteenth wasn't as complex or lyrical, but the impact for me, was muted. Senator Sunraider & his tale never really grabbed me the way that the unnamed protagonist from IM does. Though it's a time-old story. Denial of the black experience in America to advance one's political career. That's Juneteenth in a nutshell. If you love Ellison as much as I do, you've probably already read it. If not, maybe s ...more
Richie Ammons
The story and plot can get a bit confusing. This book was culled from over 2,000 pages Ellison wrote and never finished. So I can see how that happened. But the real reason to read this book is to witness Ellison mastery of language and ability to provoke emotions. This is a story of two preachers in early mid 20th century America. There are some sermons in this back that will make the hair on your neck stand on end. I listened to the audiobook read by the actor Joe Morton; absolutely amazing.
Pat
Poetic writing, but the story was too hard to follow.
U. Teresa


Ellison easily belongs in the pantheon of literary gods. Though not finished, Ellison's vision is here in this text, and Callahan does a remarkable job of revealing it. Yes, the rich tapestry of Ellison's work proves challenging in places, but the depths of culture evidenced here forces the reader to purposely break to soak it all in as you read. I recommend this text , especially if you are familiar with Ellison's other work.
Kristin
How it took me this long to read this text, I don't know. Perhaps I was skeptical and worried that this cobbled together text wouldn't meet the high standard set by IM. But, I was blown away. Yes, I recognize that it is cobbled together, edited, etc., yet, the language is all RWE and the layers, oh the layers! Once again RWE layers many many traditions, histories, genres. Need to read it again.
Maeve
The book started off a bit disjointed and due to it's literary and poetic style was hard to follow, but then in came together and I enjoyed it. Turned out it was a 40 year project. It is in an episodic style with speeches, sermons, flashbacks, and internal monologues all thrown in. Some are easier to follow the story and others are intentionally more confusing because the people themselves are confused.
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Ralph Ellison was a scholar and writer. He was born Ralph Waldo Ellison in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, named by his father after Ralph Waldo Emerson. Ellison was best known for his novel Invisible Man, which won the National Book Award in 1953. He also wrote Shadow and Act (1964), a collection of political, social and critical essays, and Going to the Territory (1986). Ellison references music in his ...more
More about Ralph Ellison...
Invisible Man Shadow and Act Flying Home and Other Stories The Collected Essays Living with Music: Jazz Writings

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“God is love, I said, but art's the possibility of forms, and shadows are the source of identity.” 8 likes
“Words of Emancipation didn't arrive until the middle of June so they called it Juneteenth. So that was it, the night of Juneteenth celebration, his mind went on. The celebration of a gaudy illusion. 5 likes
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